Many Western women in Japan complain that, despite plentiful romance in their home countries, they now face a dating desert.
But Yuki, an assistant manager at a popular club in Shibuya, says the reason most Japanese men appear uninterested in Western women is because they assume they will be rejected. They believe Western women only want to date Western men.
“Probably 100 percent of Japanese men think that American and European men’s looks are better than ours,” he says.
If you want to be more popular with Japanese men, you will have to assert yourself.
However, while being clear about what you want is important, as body cues can be misunderstood, the Western woman will need to be low key about it — being too direct might scare him off.
If you have your sights set on a particular man at a social gathering, you will probably have to initiate and maintain a conversation with him. Even if you are introduced, he may not make any attempts to chat.
Once you begin a conversation, however, it is important to give him space to talk, says yoga teacher Kazue, 34.
In the West, people talk to show interest, but here, gaps in the conversation are okay. If you talk too much you may intimidate him.
Kazue explains that men need time to think about what they will say and how to move the conversation in the direction they want. If the woman talks constantly, the man may feel overwhelmed.
“Men expect women to be more quiet; expressions and words are not necessary,” says 25-year-old Masa. “If you explain everything, it would be too much for him.”
Daisuke (28) agrees: “For men, it’s comfortable not to say anything. In Japan, what you can’t see is important. What you can see is not so important.”
In fact, if he speaks little it may be a sign that he is nervous because he is attracted to you. Kazue suggests that women should also allow themselves to show a little bit of their own awkwardness.
While intial encounters may result in arrangements for drinks or dinner, the next step ought to be a period of general, chatty e-mailing, because, even for good English speakers, writing mails gives the man time to collect his thoughts and plan what he is going to say next.
So if phone chat, a typical Western expectation, is a rarity, don’t worry. Says Masa: “With e-mail, he can give you a look at how he feels and open himself.”
But once that first dinner or drinks date is organized, he will try to take charge of the situation, according to Masa, who has lived in England and New Zealand.
“He wants to be the hero. If he has the possibility that she will say he is very strong, he’s happy,” he says.
One extreme tactic that young Japanese women often use is to act drunk — you don’t actually have to get intoxicated, though — so the man has to take care of her.
Daisuke, engaged to a Briton, admits that many Japanese men think that women are sometimes weak, and so they want to help them. “We feel we are men” when we can take care of them, he says.
Shiki, 23, interprets the situation a bit differently: “I don’t say it’s because they want to be in a stronger position — they are scared. They need some options, some choices.”
By letting him take the lead, he will feel under less pressure to explicitly express what he wants.
One piece of advice from the West that applies in Japan is to get a man to talk about himself. Women here will usually give men praise and encouragement when they speak about jobs and hobbies.
While cooing and clapping your hands like a child is optional, remember that your date will probably be self-conscious, so recognizing his accomplishments is a good way to show your interest in him.
He may feel particularly vulnerable if he is not very fluent in English as those around the couple may be assessing his English, says Daisuke. He may also feel uncomfortable because he is unable to joke with you, something a man often feels he is obliged to do.
Daisuke says: “It’s comfortable for us if women make us think we are good. We hope women say we are great. We would feel really happy. We feel love and I wanna be with her.”
Daisuke says getting drunk is important. Drinking will loosen him up and he will have more courage to express his feelings and to touch you.
As a public rarity in Japan, touching is a very important sign that a man is interested in you.
Miyuki, an Englishwoman married to a Japanese, notes that pushes and jabs, and even taps to the head, are positive signs. It is particularly significant if he initiates intimate touching, like holding hands or putting his arm around you, even briefly.
“Japanese don’t touch each other,” Miyuki (25) says. “So if they touch your hand, they are interested in touching you in other places.”
Shiki (23), who spent time in Sydney, agrees that displays of affection are not always easy for the Japanese man.
“When I was in Sydney, I thought maybe Japanese men have a little bit of a problem to show feelings with their bodies. We think before we move, so usually we get afraid. So we don’t know what to do then.”
However, kissing is taboo in public, so you should allow yourself to be steered to a quiet place, like a park or even karaoke, after dinner.
While a kiss is okay on the first date, you may want to start slowly with a chaste one. Your date may even peck your hand before he kisses you on the lips, says Masa.
Daisuke warns about kissing on the first date: “If you want to be a serious girlfriend don’t kiss on the first date. If you kiss too soon, he will lose respect (for you . . . He’ll think) I don’t need to try.”
So don’t give up if nothing happens on the first few dates or even for a couple of weeks. But if you become impatient, ask them where your relationship stands — they too may be wondering.
Certainly, some men will try to sleep with you on the first date, but others will be so painfully shy, so it may be ages before they act.
Ippei, 30, says it is not hard for Western women to get a boyfriend, but the woman must be assertive. “You should take action. Then maybe, within one week, you can find a man.”
Have you had an interesting encounter with a Japanese man?
Send your experiences of the cross-cultural dating game to email@example.com and if your story is printed you’ll get a Japanese study aid to help you breach the language barrier of love.
Where to go
Below are some of the best places around town for foreign women to meet Japanese men:
Single in the City: A singles party run by the Being A Broad team and aimed at making sure women are neither set upon nor left wilting in the corner. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www. being-a-broad. com
The Pink Cow: Social diva Traci Consoli presides over this restaurant/bar that holds lots of events, drawing creative types and scenesters. Address: Villa Moderuna B1, 1-3-4 Shibuya, 150-0002 Tel: (03) 3406-5597 Web: www.thepinkcow.com
Caravan Books: Music nights, poetry readings and book discussions are held regularly at this cosy bookshop/cafe. Their wine and cheese party on the last Friday of the month is always crowded with people looking for good conversation. Address: 2-21-5 Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku Tel: (03) 5951-6406 Web: www.booksatcaravan.com/caravan.html
What the Dickens: This British pub has a lot of faithful regulars from all walks of life. It has live music most nights, but weekends are best, when there are bands to dance to and it is packed with minglers. Address: Roob 6 Bldg 4F, 1-13-3 Ebisu-Nishi Tel: (03) 3780-2099 Web: www.eigomedia.com/dickens/